House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan works very hard at committee to raise the issue of fairness for first nations, and this is just one more aspect that she is working on.

We share Vancouver Island and we have many different first nations bands within our ridings. I have met with many of the chiefs, councils and people in my riding. What they have told me over and over again is that they have been left out of the equation for far too long. Their resources have been given away to logging and mining companies. Their territorial waters have been encroached on by fish farms. They have not seen the benefits of the resources that surround them.

Therefore, I want to ask my colleague to perhaps underline the importance of settling these specific claims, so that first nations can move forward with their treaty negotiations in a way that helps them access some of those resources that they have been left without for far too long.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question from the member for Vancouver Island North. In fact, one of the aspects of this bill is that first nations cannot actually file a claim with the specific claims process for 15 years. One concern that has been raised is that in those 15 years their land can be developed, given away, sold or whatever. That is an important factor in this as well. As we know, a lot can happen over that period of time.

However, with regard to the fact that the specific claims process will provide some certainty, it provides certainty for first nations and also for the non-aboriginal community. Therefore, part of the hope in moving forward with a specific claims process that actually is more expeditious is that it will allow things like economic development to move forward with first nations. It will allow things like revenue sharing to moving forward for first nations. It will allow first nations to have access to the resources on their own lands. The hope is that it would actually benefit the first nations communities in enhancing their living conditions.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite, who I know has at least some passing familiarity with claims filed by the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, if she is not frustrated, as I am, at the relatively limited scope of the legislation that we are discussing.

The reality is that several land claims have been filed or registered by the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. The most famous, so to speak, has become known colloquially as “Caledonia”. It is actually Douglas Creek Estates. This is a site that was initially occupied or reclaimed or protested on, call it what we will, in February 2006. Negotiations started about three months after that and they continue. This is now two years down the line with no end in sight, quite frankly, and other claims are being negotiated as well.

Simply put, is the member troubled by the limited nature of the legislation? Would that the government had seen fit to broaden the scope or the ambit of the legislation so that all claims would be covered.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the $150 million cap is a part of this legislation that is deeply troubling, in part because there is no process outlined for how that will be dealt with.

In terms of the Six Nations, there are a couple of issues. One is that again there is no recognition of the nation to nation status. Also, this claim goes back to 1763 with a royal proclamation. That is where it is grounded, as well as in the two row wampum, which recognized that parallel nation to nation process.

This piece of legislation simply does not deal with the particular Six Nations issues around the Grand River or Caledonia. Again, this calls for the need to put in place the process that recognizes these much larger claims, and a process around comprehensive claims as well, which we have not even touched because that is outside the scope of the specific claims legislation. However, the comprehensive land claims process itself is not moving forward in a way that is going to meet the needs of people.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-30 in its final hour of debate. I represent a riding that has many first nations and I am proud to be here and represent their voice on this issue.

As a parliamentarian, I have had the opportunity to hear the speeches from the first hour of debate and hear the minister and witnesses at committee as well. I have been made aware, as most parliamentarians have, that the federal government is very proud of the working relationship between the Assembly of First Nations and itself on the bill. However, I have chosen to oppose the bill, and I will use my time to speak to the reasons for that decision.

One of the primary considerations in my riding has been about the land. I represent a northern riding in Manitoba, which reflects about two-thirds of the province. In fact, we have enormous resource development in our riding. I just received another headline from Manitoba about the impacts of the hydro development.

Many Manitobans are well aware that hydro development has been going on since about 1959, when developing hydro first started. Therefore, we saw the real impacts of resource development in northern Manitoba, primarily over the last 40 to 50 years, which has had a significant impact on the livelihoods of first nations in my riding.

We hear today about the continuing issues around hydro development. York Factory was responding to the replacement of the turbines at one of the dams. Last week I was at Fox Lake First Nation in northern Manitoba, which is situated where the next proposed dam for Manitoba Hydro is, and that is Conawapa.

The minister of sports and culture, who is also the MLA for that riding, was there as well as the national chief to support the community. There has been no response from Canada on the terms of settlement and the province continues to move forward in hydro development. There is a critical role that Canada must play.

However, people seem to believe that the role can be somehow relegated to a moral obligation. It is really critical in this discussion that we talk about the legal obligation and the fiduciary relationship that the federal government has with first nations, in particular when we are speaking about issues related to the land and aboriginal rights inherent in these discussions.

I will read a piece from the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in which it discusses claims. It says:

—Aboriginal claims are not entreaties against the Crown’s superior underlying title. Aboriginal claims are assertions of Aboriginal rights—rights that inhere in Aboriginal nations because of time-honoured relationships with the land, which predate European contact. Aboriginal rights do not exist by virtue of Crown title; they exist notwithstanding Crown title. They are recognized by section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, and they protect matters integral to Aboriginal identity and culture, including systems of government, territory and access to resources. Any remaining authority the Crown may enjoy is constrained by the fact that it is required by law to act in the interests of Aboriginal peoples.

I quoted that piece because the riding I represent has an enormous amount of resource development. Yet aboriginal people, first nations within the riding of Churchill, have remained at the lowest end of the spectrum in terms of wealth and at the highest end of the spectrum in terms of poverty. They have been alienated and marginalized from resource benefit sharing. In fact, the disparity between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in my riding is enormous and shameful.

First nations in my riding have had to spend many decades dealing with the issues around resource benefit sharing and the settlement of specific claims and comprehensive claims. It has been very clear in their struggle that the federal government has not attempted, in its capacity of a fiduciary obligation to aboriginal peoples, to always act in good faith. We see this in the very real situations that first nations are involved in today in terms of their standard of living.

Since contact, the issues involving land and first nations people have been one of the most contentious issues that Canada has faced. Unresolved land claims have long strained the nation to nation relationship between the Crown and first nations in Canada.

Following the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Calder, it was confirmed that aboriginal people's historic occupation of the land gave rise to legal rights in the land that survived European settlement. This ruling forced the federal government to undertake not only first time processes for the negotiation of comprehensive land claims, but also new processes for resolving specific claims.

The 1973 decision was a turning point in the country toward returning traditional lands to first nations. However, the subsequent processes have been anything but smooth sailing.

A national mini-summary issued by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Specific Claims Branch indicated that between April 1, 1970 and September 30, 2007 only 284 of 1,366 specific claims advanced had been settled and 853 unresolved claims are in various stages of review by DIAND Specific Claims Branch.

A review of the mini-summary by province indicated that a significant percentage of outstanding claims had been pending for 10 or more years and many had been initiated 15 to 25 years ago. The excessively drawn out claims process has led to a wide array of social and economic turmoil, particularly for first nations people. We have seen protests and unrest, which I regret to say have led to imprisonment and in some cases even injury and death.

For too long, the relationship between the land and first nations people has been undermined and ignored in our country. In fact, I will quote again from the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, in which it said:

The rights of Aboriginal peoples to lands and resources are perceived as somewhat nebulous claims against the real rights of the Crown. The purpose of a land claims agreement has been to dispose of the claim by extinguishing Aboriginal title and perfecting the 'real' Crown title in exchange for a set of contractual rights and benefits. By contrast, Aboriginal groups say that it is government that should bear the burden of establishing the validity of its claim to the unfettered administration and control of Aboriginal lands, and that the Crown, as a fiduciary obliged to protect the interests of Aboriginal people, should act with propriety.

That is what we are talking about today. This is essentially what underpins this whole discussion. There is a very strong difference of opinion about what the propriety is and whether the federal government is meeting its fiduciary obligation to first nations.

I understand the government has been very proud of the process in which it has been engaged. AFN has very clearly articulated at our committee that the bill should be supported and that it hopes it will move expeditiously through the stages, through to a vote to become law.

Many of my colleagues in the House support the bill, if not most. However, I felt it was incumbent upon me to ensure that I made statements in the House to articulate the position of first nations in my riding on the bill.

Grand Chief Sydney Garrioch of the Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, which represents 30 first nations in northern Manitoba, reminded us at our committee that first nations bodies, including the MKO and the Southern Chiefs' Organization, which represents first nations in my riding on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, had been subject to numerous inquiries and studies.

Joint task forces and even a royal commission repeatedly called for a process to resolve specific claims. However, the process had to specifically be jointly arrived at through the mutual consent of first nations in Canada and be independent of perceived or actual undue influence by the Government of Canada.

A concern about the whole issue of independence was brought up by a number of our witnesses. The Canadian Bar Association also presented as witnesses at our committee. It made sure to elaborate on the point that we needed a independent process to deal with specific claims. It called upon the government to have an independent body review the ministerial decisions to reject claims and to make decisions binding on the federal government. One of the suggestions was that difficult issues might be referred to an impartial lawyer or a former judge. A number of witnesses had the same concern. Another point was that it should be effective in resolving claims. Finally, MKO's position was that it should uphold the honour of the Crown.

It is interesting to note that where I am standing right now, on Parliament Hill. on the floor of the House of Commons, and delivering a speech on land claims, is in fact traditional Algonquin territory, which was never surrendered and compensation was never received for this land.

This fact on its own speaks volumes on the existing land claims across the country. It also illustrates the dire need for appropriate, effective legislation, which is the result of a thorough consultative process and also reflects the fiduciary obligation of the Crown.

Again, in the case of Guerin, it was very clearly stipulated in law by the Supreme Court of Canada that the federal government had a fiduciary responsibility. The government has the duty to act in the interests of aboriginal rights and treaty rights. The government's determination of validity in this matter involves a clear conflict of interest. In fact, the Department of Justice has advised on treaties the same way that it litigates them, and that point was also made very clearly at committee.

What we are trying to do, in developing a specific claims process, is develop a process that would allow first nations and Canada to develop a relationship, as has been advised by the court, as has been entrenched in our constitution, that avoids an adversarial process which we would see in litigation. That is the purpose of this process.

However, we have a framework which will put us back into the same or similar situation of a court structure, using discovery methods similar to court processes.

I would like to mention that on this matter of reconciliation and justice at last, and in terms of trying to find an alternative process to litigation, in the Guerin decision there was a comment made by Justice Wilson. She said, “Equity will not permit the Crown in such circumstances to hide behind the language of its own document”. That is really important because the fundamental piece in terms of a fiduciary obligation is the principle of equity in law.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have four minutes to conclude her remarks following question period.

We will move on now to statements by members, the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Birthday Greetings
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Mrs. Charlotte Mitchell of Fort McMurray, Alberta, who celebrated her 100th birthday on May 2nd, just two weeks ago.

Speaking with Mrs. Mitchell during her birthday party, I was humbled to think of what she had experienced while living in the most progressive century of our time and in the most progressive city of our time.

One hundred years ago today, Fort McMurray was home to only a few hundred people and just beginning its transformation from a Hudson's Bay trading post into an epicentre of prosperity.

Mrs. Mitchell and her family were pioneers of the community, supporting its tremendous growth as oil exploration and production turned my small town into a vibrant city of now over 80,000 people and a pivotal force in the Canadian and global economy.

Charlotte Mitchell has built a legacy to be proud of, so today I say congratulations and happy birthday. We are all so very proud of her.

Scopus Award
Statements By Members

May 12th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, May 14 a distinguished citizen of Winnipeg, and indeed of the world, will be honoured by the Winnipeg chapter of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. Dr. Frank Plummer will receive the Scopus award given to those individuals who have demonstrated real humanitarian concerns throughout their careers.

A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Plummer is currently distinguished professor at the University of Manitoba, as well as senior adviser to the Public Health Agency of Canada, among other things.

Dr. Plummer spent 16 years in Kenya researching sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-AIDS. Although the world reviewed HIV-AIDS as a homosexual disease, Dr. Plummer revealed that heterosexual women could also be infected. During his study of 500 Nairobi prostitutes, he found that two-thirds of them had HIV-AIDS. However, he discovered among them a group of women who did not contract AIDS. This discovery suggested that those women had natural immunity to the disease and that a vaccine could be developed.

Dr. Plummer has been recognized worldwide for his groundbreaking work. It is most appropriate that--

Scopus Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

Gala des Olivier
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 10th annual Gala des Olivier, hosted by Martin Petit, was held yesterday. The gala highlights and rewards the outstanding achievements of comedians on stage and television. The gala also promotes the comedy industry, contributes to the industry's development, and showcases the industry's artists, writers, producers and comedians.

Several Quebec comedians received awards at the gala. Martin Matte was honoured four times in the comedy show, writer—with François Avard and Benoît Pelletier—comedy DVD and most popular show of the year categories. Rachid Badouri's debut show was awarded two Olivier awards, and Louis-José Houde was named comedian of the year.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I are delighted to congratulate the winners, paragons of Quebec-style humour, all.

Health
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow I will be in Sault Ste. Marie to hear Sault resident Jonathan DellaVedova speak as the newly elected president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. Jonathan will speak on protecting public medicare and why it is a Canadian imperative to defend it.

Jonathan studies at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. He is the first student board representative with Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

His speech is timely. A local crisis continues because of too few beds and doctors. Emergency room physicians are threatening to withdraw services citing unsafe patient conditions.

The answers are clear. The NDP is calling for long term, home care and nurse practitioner programs within public health care. As Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the students say:

A public system is better for everyone because it means health care dollars are spent on patient care rather than private clinic profits, and services are provided in accountable facilities rather than ones that are not nationally regulated.

From Tommy Douglas decades ago to Jonathan DellaVedova in 2008, we vow to protect public medicare.

Team Cornwall
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to tell the House and all Canadians about an organization I am very proud to belong to. That organization is Team Cornwall.

Team Cornwall was established to spread the good news about Cornwall's positive attributes. Team members, acting as ambassadors, use their own networks to deliver timely information about the community and its economic opportunities.

Today we can be proud of our accomplishments. By working together we have created a sales force of over 340 individuals, including the Prime Minister of Canada, who became an honorary member in August 2006. Team Cornwall members travel across the country informing Canadians of the many advantages of living and doing business in Cornwall and the surrounding area.

I encourage all Canadians looking for a community, where they can work, invest and raise a family, to visit Team Cornwall's most recent initiative online at www.choosecornwall.ca. I want to thank each and every member of Team Cornwall for the outstanding job they are doing promoting the wonderful city of Cornwall.

Pharmaceutical Industry
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's generic pharmaceutical industry is a true success story, wonderfully reflected in the Apotex facility in my riding of Brant. The industry, however, is justifiably concerned about, and surprised by, recently published regulatory amendments.

These changes are contrary to the best interests of consumers, changes which will delay generic competition and will extend monopolies for brand name companies.

Almost all generic drugs sold in Canada are made here in Canada by 11,000 highly skilled people. The government should withdraw proposals which will harm a dynamic industry and will increase prescription drug costs for Canadians.

The message to the government is to do the right thing and withdraw these amendments.

Norad
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

M. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to the 50th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

Canada has a long and successful history of security and defence cooperation with our southern neighbours. As one of the longest standing military agreements between Canada and the United States, Norad remains a cornerstone of the Canada-U.S. defence relationship.

Canadians and Americans work together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to monitor and defend the skies over both countries, including the Arctic. For half a century Norad has evolved to address emerging threats.

In May 2006 this government renewed the Norad agreement and added a maritime warning mission to help ensure the safety of North American maritime approaches and waterways.

To honour this important milestone, the Minister of National Defence will join his American counterpart and members of the armed forces of Canada and the United States for celebrations at Norad headquarters in Colorado Springs. There will also be a military parade and flypast in celebration of Norad's anniversary in Winnipeg on May 30.

I invite all members to honour the vigilance and hard work of the men and women who serve in the defence of North America.

Inter-Parliamentary Union 2010 Assembly
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, by insisting on reserving the right to refuse participants at the Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly, instead of promising to welcome everyone as required by IPU regulations, the federal government risks compromising Quebec City's chances of hosting the 1,500 parliamentarians expected to attend the event in 2010.

This intransigence could prove very costly for the Quebec City area, when we know that an international convention of this scope brings in economic spinoffs of at least $500 a day for every convention delegate. Losing the chance to host the IPU assembly could cost the Quebec City area some $4.5 million in loss of revenue for such an event.

Given the circumstances, the federal government should reverse its decision and show greater flexibility so the 2010 IPU assembly can be held in Quebec City. Conservative members from the Quebec City area must prove that they are here to serve the interests of their region, the Quebec City region.